Sunday, April 23, 2017

Love Your Face: Eulogy for My Dad

            Let’s begin by going back about 24 years, specifically to the first Sunday of April, 1993.
            This particular Sunday, Bob was feeling under the weather, with what he thought was the flu. On the advice of the doctor, my mother drove him to the ER. As it turned out, Bob wasn’t suffering from the flu. He was in the midst of a massive heart attack. 
             That evening was a blur.  We were told to prepare for the worst. Somehow, Bob survived that first night. 
              For days, Bob’s vital signs rode more steep ups and downs than a city of Worcester school bus.  Exhausted, we spent our days camped out in the ICU waiting room of the old Saint Vincent’s Hospital on Vernon Hill, impatiently waiting our turn, one family member at a time, to visit with him.   
           Again and again we asked ourselves: How could this happen to such a fit man who always ate right – except for his once a week dose of chocolate cake or blueberry pie from Sam’s Bakery – and exercised  regularly? He was barely retired a year at that time. Eighteen holes of golf followed by three mile walks were a regular part of his daily routine.
            Then it was the following Sunday, one tumultuous  week later, a beautiful spring day with the promise of new life in the air: Sun shining brightly; Green grass poking up through what remained of the winter snow.  Bob’s room in ICU was still crowded with all kinds of scary, beeping machinery. We arrived for our usual visits, but he cut them short. He didn’t want to wear himself out. It was the final day of the Master’s Tournament and he was determined to save up enough energy to watch it.
            We took this as a good sign. And indeed it was. That evening, his vitals began to stabilize. Within days, he was moved from ICU to a regular hospital room. Granted, there were some pretty talented medical professionals involved in Bob’s recovery, but deep down we knew the truth. Golf saved him.  
            Given the substantial damage to his heart, doctors estimated Bob had about four years of living left. My father, a man of integrity and honesty, made sure we were all aware that he’d been given an end date. He wanted us prepared.
            “What are you gonna do?” He’d say to us, shrugging, not one tear in his eye. “Hey! I’m lucky to be alive.”
             Bob’s brush with death back then turned out to be a gift.  Because we were all aware that the future wasn’t guaranteed, we treated every day as though it was his last until this mindset became ingrained in each of us. We always took the opportunity to express to him, Patsy, each loved one, how much they mattered. Nearly every interaction ended with a phrase my grandmother, his mother, had started to regularly say to all of us: “Love your face.” 
            Over the phone: “Love your face, dad.”
            “Love your face kid.” 
            After an evening out or an afternoon excursion, a big hug and a wet kiss on the cheek: “Love your face. Love your face, kid.”
            “Yeah. Yeah. We know.  Love your face, dad.”
  ,         There were lots of ways my dad could have chosen to act in the years after his heart attack. He could have sat back, given up, and waited for death, for example. But as history shows us, Bob wasn’t that type of person. He always pushed for more. He was the first in his family to graduate college. Got his doctorate in education, when a bachelor’s would have been just fine.  He so finely honed his golf game that, in his prime, he won golf tournaments left and right and got not one hole in one, but four.
            Married above his station – he liked to joke -- the smart, funny, and beautiful Catherine Patricia.         
            He not only visited his mother every Sunday, he also stopped in on Mondays for lunch. She’d always have a half sandwich, a glass of milk, and a piece of fruit waiting for him. He went above and beyond as a dad too by giving us his most precious commodity, his time: piano sing-alongs – "I’m a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch" was my personal favorite – beach and ski vacations, piano lessons, golf lessons, trips to Canada, Florida, and Ireland.
            Rather than sit back and wait for his heart to give out, Bob lived every day as if it was his last. In the process, he defied all his doctors’ predictions. Within months of his hospitalization, he returned to golf, determined to regain his strength. And he did. Over the next two decades, he and Patsy traveled everywhere: Florida several times a year, all over the U.S. to visit Tara, and then all over Europe as well. He loved spending time with his grandchildren. Was proud to be there in person to see Katie and Bridget accept all sorts of academic awards and graduate middle school, high school, college. He loved spending time with Conor and Annie Cate: buying them books, tracking Conor’s swim team achievements. He couldn’t get enough of Annie Cate’s piano playing. He and Patsy shared in their joy as they visited some of the most beautiful and historic sites of Europe.  
            The fact that Bob continued to live – truly live in every sense of the word – is a gift that still inspires awe, even here and now. But the fact that we all knew – my dad especially, that every single one of those days was a gift?  And that we got to see that gratitude every day, in a life so well-lived?  And get to feel that gratitude still, here and now?
             That’s a gift that will keep on giving.  
            On behalf of my mother and father, Tara, myself, Katie, Bridget, Conor, and Annie Cate, thank you all for being here today. As my dad said many times, especially in the last few months, always with joy in his heart and gratitude in his soul, “You’re all good kids.”
            Dad, you’re a pretty good kid too. For always and forever, to infinity and beyond, we love love love love love your face.

Back in the '70s, near Killarney: My dad practicing his golf swing. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Three marathons and a couple of baby breakdowns: Look who's balking now

I need to: go for a run, clean the house, eat better, sleep longer, socialize more, get a hair cut, grocery shop, pay bills. But first this.

I ran three marathons last year, 2016. All of them faster than I'd run in several years. Why? I was consistent. Last year's goal was the Big C -- consistency, especially with my running. I set a goal to run 1,000 miles. For most of the year I was on track to run 1,200 and for most of the year I felt confident I'd reach that mark.

Then in October, I hit a wall.  Not one made of bricks or funded by American taxpayers. Not the 20-mile mark during a marathon either, where your legs stop listening to you and you walk/ slog to the finish line. My wall was made of scarier stuff: spiraling family health issues. Our family's finish line is still up ahead. I predict plenty more walls. The October one is where my head is now. So back to spring, where it started, then onto what lies ahead. 

The marathon I ran in the spring was spur of the moment. I didn't train. My longest runs were twelve-milers, and those were just a few times a few weeks earlier. I wasn't sleeping at night, had no appetite. Most days my hands and stomach wouldn't stop shaking, even though the anxiety meds I was taking should have kicked in, unless I ran six, seven, or eight miles. There was no time to run more and most of those runs were interrupted and/or shortened by phone calls from my loved ones, doctors, nurses.   

Signed up for the marathon three days before. Race number: 666. Laughed to a nun volunteer at the nursing home where my mom was recuperating from her latest surgery that this meant I was going to run like the devil was chasing me. Joked that the last few years -- last few months in particular were like running to hell and back so I had more than enough training to probably win this race.

In a manner of speaking, I did. Finished faster than any of the last ten marathons for which I'd actually trained. Even crazier, I ran my second half of that race in negative splits. I ran the last 13. 1 miles 11 seconds FASTER than the first 13.1. For back-of-the packers like me, the generally accepted rule when it comes to predicting your marathon finish is that you add anywhere from ten to twenty minutes on to your half marathon time. So this was huge.

That's what muscle memory combined with adrenaline rushes from stress and anxiety will do to you, I guess. When I told my doctor this story a few days later, rather than congratulate me, she upped my meds, and told me to keep running. My therapist did congratulate me, and seconded the med and exercise recommendations. 

The summer marathon was all downhill, literally, except for a cruel one mile jug handle at mile 12. I walked part of that and worried I was going to faint because the dizziness was so intense. Could have been due to suddenly going from running to walking and a resultant drop in blood pressure. Or a panic attack -- my most faithful of friends this last year. Or most likely a combination of both, dizziness begets panic which begets dizziness begets panic and so on.

Somehow got through all that and got back on track. Even though I walked about a half mile of the last half of the race due to aching quads from the constant decline, I finished in my second fastest time ever. And when I say ever I mean of twenty-two marathons over the last sixteen years.  This was huge. The perfect storm. A magically perfect combination of anxiety, good training, and downhills.

Then came the end of summer and escalating illnesses on the home front. The escalating began the day before my return to work, and has yet to let up.

There have been major operations, long talks with oncologists, cardiologists, surgeons, loved ones. There have been too many tears, the filling out of DNR forms, note-taking on obituary info, hospital stays of weeks not days, many 911 calls and one crazy 90 mph highway drive (me from work to my parents' house to meet the ambulance), too many ER visits, two  ICU stays, and doctor appointments nearly every day since.

In the midst of this, I ran the third marathon.

Three days before the marathon, was the first of the many 911 calls.  The day before that fall race, the other loved one was unexpectedly granted release from six weeks of hospitalization and rehab. Hours before I went to bed the night before the race, a doctor called with bad news on the other loved one.

The morning of the marathon, both loved ones were stable and safe. I had solid medical assurance of this. I figured, I might as well run because otherwise I'd just be sitting around worrying. Plus, I still had trouble with constant shaking, even with the upped anxiety meds.

Needless to say, I hadn't slept in days, and had been so busy with my family, I'd barely eaten. No sleep. No carbs. All no-nos as far as running marathons goes.

I'd gotten in the habit of bringing my phone on runs with me these last few months, in case loved ones needed me. For this race, I left the phone in the car. There was no point in bringing it. My daughter was watching out for my dad, and my mom was stable in the hospital. With all the technology she was hooked up to and all the eyes watching her, there wasn't much I could do anyhow.

If I never see Hartford again, it will be too soon. I'd joked with my dad that because my race number was almost half my 666 number -- 334 -- I'd be doing the race in half the time. The truth is I finished it almost an hour after my spring time.

Every second of that marathon sucked. My quads were still tender from the downhill race over the summer. Almost every inch of the course was on heavy-duty pavement meant to last for eternities. Just keep smashing your foot onto a concrete highway for five-plus hours, and you'll understand the agony. By the halfway point I was walking, and wondering  if I had a stress fracture in my right foot, each strike to the ground ached and reverberated up my leg so strongly. 

There were lots of u-turns where, as you run forward the faster runners head back your way. Most races, I love these sections. I get a runner's high from cheering on my speedier and slower marathon friends. But this race my own misery, physical and mental, was overwhelming.

Nearing the final u-turn, still at least eight miles from the finish, I saw a runner wearing something that honest-to-god stopped me in my tracks. On the front of his optic yellow T-shirt, scrawled in huge black marker letters: "Ampullary Cancer Survivor."

I yelled to him. The words I cried made him turn around. . 

"My mom has that cancer."

He ran back and hugged me.

He told me I was the first person outside his family and medical professionals who knew about this cancer. Ampullary cancer is a type of pancreatic cancer. It is extremely rare and so far, always deadly.

He promised to wait for me at the finish so we could talk more.  

He ran one way, I slogged the other.

For the rest of the race, I mostly ran. I did my best to ignore the foot pain. It didn't hurt so much when I ran on grass or sand, both in abundance at this point in the race. While I can't say a cloud had lifted when I met that gentleman, and that's why I was able to hold my head high and mostly run, this coincidental meeting did serve a purpose that carried me forward. It reminded me that marathons always give me something. I just need to remember to always look for the lesson.

John from Maryland made good on his promise. He and his wife and two kids met me at the finish line. They waited a whole half hour.  I learned John was diagnosed three years ago. Luckily, he was a healthy enough candidate for the  intensely grueling Whipple surgery my mother didn't couldn't have. Whipple surgery digs into several vital organs, ducts, blood vessels. The recovery time is gargantuan, several months in a rehab facility. A year after the surgery, John was given the okay to resume a normal life.

But he didn't. Instead, he decided to start running marathons. He'd never been more than a once-in a while runner. He wanted to run marathons to prove to his loved ones and to himself that he was healthy.

Now John runs all the time. During races he always wears the ampullary cancer survivor message on his shirt. Of his thirteen marathons in the last two years, I was the first person to ever stop him.

Briefly, I told him my mother's story and how the night before we'd gotten news about a serious blockage in her intestines. He hugged me hard and said he'd pray for us. Of all people, he understood better than anyone other than my mom's oncologist what this development meant.  

We talked about his survival odds and my mother's odds. The fact my mother is still alive, five years from being told she had two years left, at best? We both agreed her survival is beyond miraculous. 

For him too, every day is heavenly.  The average survival rate for ampullary cancer, even with the god-awful Whipple procedure, is only five years.

Why do I mention all this now? It's ancient history, right? The first two races were in the spring and summer. The Hartford race was months ago, Columbus Day weekend. .

I mention all this to remind me to stay strong and to remind me to get help when I need it. This week, I faltered. I started off strong with big plans to run 1,200 miles this year. In fact, I ran 35.5 miles the first week of January. But I'm nearing the month's halfway mark and still need another 64.5 miles to reach this month's 100-mile goal.

I know. You're going to say I can do it. But really, can I?

This week was hell. Every day after work meant a medical appointment. We're not leaving these appointments with great news. Sure, one loved one gained a couple of pounds, but there's still another thirty to go, and there's still the fact she hasn't regained all of the seven she lost the month before. Then there was the other one and the new cardiology and limb amputation concerns.

How to cope with all this?

My mother put it best. "Things are still normal. It's just that we're always lowering to new normals." In other words, we adjust to new norms, then there's more bad news or another crisis -- another ER visit,  hospital stay,  new medication,  new home medical equipment, new schedules for visiting nurses, more doctor visits, new doctor visits. Finally, the dust settles and we adapt yet again. .

We re-think goals. Alter plans.Shift expectations.

 I have to take at least this  year off from my grad school program. I don't have the time available to do what I want to do with my writing and readings. If I sign up for any marathons this year, it will likely be spur-of-the-moment. I'm needed here at home. Family first. Always. Plus, in the grand scheme of things, both my writing and running dreams are minor, not life and death. 

My loved ones? How well they're adjusting to their infirmities is beyond my understanding.  They're my superheroes as they cope with the realities of life and death.

We all have our down moments. Sometimes we give up. Most times, I don't. But this week, I did. 

I know I need to take care of myself, yet I haven't run since Sunday. I have the best of excuses. From work, I went right to my parents' house every day. I didn't get home before 8 p.m., except for one day. 

Still, I know how to schedule. I could run before work. Or go to the gym in the evening.  During my first ten years of religiously training for and running marathons, I worked at least two jobs. Four of those years, I worked three. All that, in addition to raising two daughters totally on my own.  I know I could be doing better at scheduling in some gym time.

But I'm not sure I want to. I'm not sure if mileage this year means as much to me as other things. I have so much else on my plate, including soaking up and treasuring every second of the time that my loved ones have left. 

So I'm here to say that for 2017, I'm going to do my best to get in 1,200 miles of running. 

In fact, in all things I will try to do my best.

Ultimately, do my best is my goal this year.

Doing my best will look different every day. Isn't that true for all of us? With running, there are tangibles.  For everything else, I need to trust my instincts. My plan when it comes to determining my best: Control what I can, accept what I can't. Remind myself that every day, no matter how crazy or dull, is a gift.

2017, already you are a beast.

Ready. Set. Cope.

PS.  Managed to get in 100 miles in both January and February. Don't know how I did it.   





Sunday, January 8, 2017

I've got stamina

Too much time alone is not good. But it's the reality when you are a lone caregiver. See? Even the phrase " a lone caregiver" has the word "alone" in it.

It's hard being "it."

You wake up in the morning, sometimes ready to face the day. Other times, your brain and body are so overwhelmed you can't even put a sentence together. You're dizzy and not sure if it's because your blood pressure is so slow because you're a runner or so high because your head is out of control and  you're about to stroke out.

You gingerly put one foot forward, then the next,  and enter the kitchen, where you find the contents of the paper towel roll, which you forget to hide in the cabinet last night, ripped and scattered all over the floor. Kitten attacks.

You clean up the towels, feed the cats. Heat up old coffee. Gulp it down.

Go online because all you're thinking about is your work week, your loved ones' medical appointments, the free time you don't have any more.  Your hands are shaking and you're thinking about dark places like graveyards, obituaries.

The Facebook poem quiz gives you "Invictus."

"It matters not how strait the gate." That's a cemetery gate. The poet was picturing a cemetery gate, which is exactly what I was picturing, rusted, black-scrolled, abandoned. Me. 

You picture how running ten miles indoors today will be like torture but how it will help calm your racing pulse. You think maybe you should run first, then come home and shovel. That makes more sense. After that you'll check in with your loved ones, just a quick trip that you know will be about three hours long. Then you'll come home and write. Or more likely stare off into space, which is what writing time looks like these days. 

You jump when the phone rings. The visiting nurse tells you about some complications. Your voice is calm but every muscle in your body is quivering. Fight. Flight.

Is that ache in your chest that heart attack your therapist warns you're headed toward if you don't. . . What? Stop being there for the ones who raised me??? Seriously??

Like I would ever NOT be there for them???

I'm not THAT child.  

So. I write this. I read "Invictus" over and over.

I decide to post this, not because I need sympathy or help, but because I'm strong enough to show how weak I am, which is weird I know. Like I haven't been called that most of my life, weird I mean.

It's what works for me, letting folks see me working through my weakness: when I'm on the treadmill for forever and look like crap, drenched through, hair plastered to my neck, back fat wobbling, going slower than slow those last few miles. Or near the back of the pack during a long distance race.  Me the sloth, still strong enough to yell out "Thank you for being here" to onlookers and volunteers.

After the VNA  I called the one who knew me since my life began. Her voice shook like my hands. "I just don't know what to do." Her words tremble. I picture the orange pharmacy bottles piled all over the kitchen counter. The table where she sits is covered with her food for the day, all liquid, because it goes into a pump, into a g-tube, into her stomach.    

"It's okay. The nurse will be there soon. Me too. We'll all do our best to figure out how to control what we can. We'll take it from there. How does that sound?"

"Thank you. I'll see you soon."

The strength in her voice surprised me.

The strength in mine surprised me too. 

Gotta run. No rest for the weary. 



Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dear Framingham Heart Study -- Thanks!

One of the oldest members of the Framingham Heart Study died the other day at age 100. Newspaper accounts report that Ruth Ford Halloran was one of the 5,000 kind folks who joined the original study,  begun a lifetime ago, in 1948. The Framingham Heart Study, which looks at heart disease and its risk factors in generations of participants, was the first longitudinal study of its kind here in the United States.

Mrs. Halloran did unto others her whole life. She was a teacher then a volunteer for the Red Cross and other social service agencies while she raised her children. Following her example, her kids became a part of the second generation Heart Study.  Her charity continues even now. She donated her brain to the study, which means that because of her, humans may have greater potential for leading longer, healthier lives.   

I’d heard of the Framingham study way back in high school biology class. I never understood how important the study was until about twenty-four years ago, when, in the span of just five months, hidden heart ailments took two uncles decades before any of their loved ones were ready to say good-bye, and nearly took my dad too. 

I remember watching my dad from behind the emergency room’s glass wall. His face was colorless, his eyes wide, as doctors, who I always thought new everything, scrambled to find a clot buster remedy to keep my dad’s heart from drying out. I’d always assumed, from watching St, Elsewhere and other TV shows that patients like my dad, patients in the middle of massive heart attacks,  lay there unconscious and unaware, and, if they died, prettily drifted off to the great unknown. No pain. No suffering.  I wasn’t prepared for this messy reality, my dad alert, talking, sometimes shouting out in pain, answering every question asked of him, terrified, aware times two  that his heart was grabbing for blood that wasn’t there.  It’s been decades, but that scene is as clear to me now as this laptop screen. 

My dad just turned 87 and yesterday we were out shoveling snow together. What that looks like: He cleans every molecule of snow from his car until it gleams like it just came out of the showroom, while hollering to me about what section of the driveway to clear next and what to leave for melting. Since I was a little kid, this is how shoveling has worked. Yesterday, I remembered to thank my lucky stars for generous folks like Mrs. Halloran, who I’m sure played a role in helping my dad survive.

One of the many awesome things about having elderly parents is that they will, at odd moments, randomly share tidbits of their past with you, things that might not normally come up during those serious times – usually a bottle of wine is involved -- when they’re focused on imparting to you all the historical stuff about hardship and leaving Ireland that they want you to pass down to your descendants.
Here’s a random moment tidbit that I learned just a few weeks back: my mother’s father was part of the original Framingham Heart Study.  He signed on in 1948, when my mother was still in elementary school. He died just a few years later when my mother was sixteen.  Massive heart attack. My mother never got over the death. Who would?

A few years ago, I signed on to be part of a longitudinal study similar in scope to the Framingham Heart Study. This study is run by the American Cancer Society. It doesn’t involve much. Every few years they draw a couple of vials of blood. Once a year I fill out a survey. I hope that in some way I’m paying things forward. Perhaps my dad lived because of some info gleaned from some kind soul who took an hour out of their day once a year to take part in the Framingham Heart Study.

Last month I wrote about consistency in running and entitled the piece, “The Big C.” A friend wrote me privately and said when she first read the title she worried that I was going to reveal that I have cancer. I don’t, but I have a family member who does. My associating the phrase “the big C” with something I love – in this case running, is one of my coping mechanisms. Words matter, and when I think of the big C, I want the images in my head to be positive and life-affirming: the fans lining the streets on Patriot's Day, the buff soldiers manning the water stops at the Marine Corps run, the cheering Chicago folks who gave out tons of sponges the whole length of the marathon course.    

Gratitude matters too. I'm grateful to Mrs. Halloran, my grandfather, and all the other Framingham Heart Study folks who bit by bit are making the world a better place for me and my descendants. I hope someday my tiny bit of participation in the American Cancer Society study makes a difference too. Cancer sucks. Wouldn't it be great if one day it didn't exist at all?  


Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016: Hello, Big C

When I first began this blog, I’d just returned from a phenomenal writing workshop with the great John Dufresne, hometown hero and author of one of my all-time favorite books, Love Warps the Mind a Little. John gave us lots of great advice, and one particular piece that stuck with me was simple: Write every day.

I knew that if I kept the goal open-ended, I’d likely fail. Write every day for the rest of my life? I get the sentiment. I get that it’s true. But I wasn’t ready to accept it. Not sure I’m ready yet.  

I’m used to working best when I have a tangible deadline, like a semester end, or a marathon. I knew I needed to write more. I decided to jump start my practice by writing every day that summer until school started up again at the end of August. 

Some days, it was easy to fit in the writing.  I’d sit down first thing in the morning and before I knew it, it was mid afternoon, and I’d knocked out some decent pages. Other days, finding the time to write was difficult. There were lots of all-day hospital visits with certain family members that first summer that were mentally and physically draining.  There were fun distractions too, like day trips to the beach.

Through it all, I managed to rise to the challenge. I stayed consistent. I met my goal.

I know that consistency is the key to getting what you want out of life.  My proof: 20 marathons, countless half marathons, two kids with college degrees, the roof over my head.

Now we start 2016 and I call upon the Big C -- consistency -- again. What I need this year isn’t something tangible. It’s not a race medal, a new kitchen, a college degree. What I need is something you hold in your heart, not something you can touch or see. What I need this year is mental fortitude.

Consistency is job one. Consistency in thoughts: remembering gratitude, small steps, falling seven times and rising eight.

Consistency in action, too. I love running marathons. Two years ago, I set a long-term goal to run one in all fifty states. I only have thirty-nine states left to go. I was hoping to get in another half dozen this year. Right now, I’m not sure I’m able to sign up for any events that require travel, long-term planning, tons of preparation. I’m even holding off on signing up for the second semester of grad school.

While marathons and grad school are part of taking care of myself, both are stressful in their own ways. Right now, I'm full to the brim with quite enough stress. I do not need second and third helpings. 

I need to be mentally and physically present here at home. I need to be available. I’m not saying I won’t do a marathon or five this year. Not saying I won’t sign up for grad school either. Just saying that at this time, I'm not ready to make any decisions.  I’ll figure those other things out in time. I’ve done the research, and know my marathon and grad school deadlines. I’m good.  

Just because certain things in my life are on hold, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and let my heart and head fall apart.  For me, physical and mental fortitude go hand in hand.  Every long run reminds me that I’ve got more in me, physically and mentally, than I ever thought possible. Every page I write reminds me that I’m on my way to being who I want to be.

Bottom line: mental fortitude. 

I’m taking on a new challenge: completing 1,000 running miles in 2016. This works out to be about twenty miles a week. 

No biggie for a marathoner, right? Actually, wrong.

When I set the goal, a few years back, to become a Marathon Maniac, I cut down on my running and upped my cross training. I deliberately did this to prevent the overuse injuries that plagued me most of my first dozen marathons. I haven’t run consistent weekly mileage in years. So this focus on twenty miles a week is truly a challenge. 

I plan on continuing to write too. If I don’t sign up for the next grad semester, I’ll probably start posting a lot more here. I’ll continue working on the umpteen first draft short stories I’ve created over the years. Right now, I have two that I’m in the process of re-working.

I know that part of mental fortitude is taking care of yourself. I need to write like I need to run. It’s part of what makes me whole.  You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

Back in 2012, a few months before I started this blog, my family got news about a loved one and an illness. Things stabilized, and even improved. Every day of the last four years has been a gift.

But the only constant in life is change. Funny, how consistent that is. And just as consistently, every day continues to be a gift.

Change. Challenge. Constant. Consistent.
2016, you promise to be a terrible, beautiful year.  I promise to do my best to meet you head on.   

New mantra.